Astros stay in the win column

McCullers Jr. returns to the mound as Astros start 2-0 against the Mariners

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

With the first game and win under their belt, the Astros went back to work on Saturday against the Mariners in Houston. They worked behind Lance McCullers Jr., making his return to the mound after missing the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. McCullers would put together a strong start, and Houston's offense continued to stack up runs en route to the win and a 2-0 record.

Final Score: Astros 7, Mariners 2.

Record: 2-0, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Taijuan Walker (0-1, 13.50 ERA).

Houston strikes first and builds an early lead

In the bottom half of the first inning, the Astros wasted no time at the plate, getting a one-out walk by Jose Altuve, who moved to second on a single by Alex Bregman, then scored on an RBI-single by Michael Brantley, grabbing a quick 1-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel made his first hit of 2020 an impressive one, crushing a ball in the bottom of the fourth for a solo home run to extend the lead to 2-0. Later in the same inning, Kyle Tucker would end Taijuan Walker's day with an RBI-double to make it 3-0, and Martin Maldonado added two more on a two-RBI double to push the lead to 5-0.

McCullers Jr. provides six strong innings

Lance McCullers Jr. struggled with his command early in the game, starting in the top of the first loading the bases after a double and two walks. He would get a much-needed double play to end the threat, keeping the game scoreless. He had more traffic in the second inning but again was able to induce groundballs to keep the lead. His first clean inning came in the third as he was able to settle in, though in the top of the fifth, George Springer made a nasty collision with the center-field wall going after a fly ball, which resulted in a leadoff triple.

The Mariners turned that into a run with a sacrifice groundout, but McCullers Jr. would follow that with two strikeouts to end the frame. In the bottom of the fifth, Carlos Correa made it a five-run lead again with an RBI-single to bring the score to 6-1. McCullers Jr. would complete the sixth inning, even after allowing a solo home run to trim the lead to 6-2, leaving in position for the win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.

Houston's bullpen wraps things up again

After the scary impact with the wall earlier, Springer must have felt just fine, launching a two-out dinger in the bottom of the sixth to make it 7-2. In the top of the seventh, another Astro made their major-league debut, this time Cristian Javier out of the bullpen. Javier worked around a one-out single for a scoreless inning of work.

Cy Sneed took over on the mound in the eighth, and he was able to work around a one-out double by striking out three Mariners. Still 7-2 after eight, Roberto Osuna made his 2020 debut in the top of the ninth after being labeled as questionable to take part in this series after a slow progression in Summer Camp. Osuna was able to put an end to the game, throwing a scoreless inning to move the Astros to 2-0 on the early season.

Up Next: Game three of this four-game set will be on Sunday at 1:10 PM Central at Minute Maid Park. The pitching matchup will be Yusei Kikuchi on the mound for Seattle, going opposite of Zack Greinke for Houston. Greinke will be making his first meaningful start since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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